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When I started writing in 1955, I was a twenty two year old housewife living in Philadelphia. I found the book that became the inspiration for my own writing on a drugstore shelf: it was Vin Packer’s Spring Fire, a story of two college sorority sisters who have an intense affair. The book sparked a fire inside me, only a year out of college myself, and eventually led to my own lesbian narrative. With surprising and welcome help from author Vin Packer, to whom I had written for advice, the manuscript found its way to Richard Carroll, editor-in-chief of Gold Medal Books, whose suggestions tightened the manuscript and focussed it on the romance between the two girls. That manuscript became my first published work Odd Girl Out — the second best selling original paperback of 1957.
After completing my first five novels, I returned to college where I worked as a professor and ultimately an associate dean at California State University, Sacramento, largely unrecognised as a novelist, believing that my stories had run their course. But they kept being re-discovered over the years, and re-issued by different publishers. Occasionally, one of the university librarians would stop me on my way across campus to say, 'We just bought a new edition of your books.' Or a student would enter my office, lay a small bouquet shyly on my desk, and say, 'I just found out who you are.' Sometimes it was a colleague whose reaction was usually, 'No! Really? That was you?'
My marriage ended in the early 1980s, while I was still in academia. It was not until I retired in the late 1990s and finally had time to travel, lecture, and meet the public, that the reach of my novels began to sink in. Initially, I was promoting the new Cleis Press editions of the Beebo Brinker Chronicles around the country, but before long, a variety of exciting new projects emerged. I appeared on radio and television interviews, wrote numerous reviews and essays, and found myself, as friends claimed, among those who had 'flunked retirement.'
In 2004, three of my novels were translated into what became and award-winning theatre piece, written by playwrights Kate Moira Ryan and Linda S. Chapman. The Beeber Brinker Chonicles stage play had two successful runs in New York in 2007 and 2008.
For an entire generation, The Beebo Brinker Chronicles provided the first representation in literature of women loving women. I am proud to have been part of a group of authors who helped to end the isolation and ignorance that had kept thousands of gay women in emotional prisons, and paved the way for the new generation of lesbian writers who were to follow. No one is more delighted than I am at the durability and appeal of these stories from long ago.